As one (and the last) of Lucifer’s season two holdovers, the question about “City Of Angels?” is instantly one of how much it works or doesn’t work within the context of season three. As phenomenal as “Off The Record” was, it was also very much an outlier in these standalone episodes. “City Of Angels?” isn’t quite at the same height of quality or even as subversive as “Off The Record,” but it’s a very good episode for what it is. It’s also one that doesn’t let the standalone aspect prevent the episode from getting heavy (at least on one side of the episode)

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Given Lucifer’s general tone, in its simplest form, “City Of Angels?” is comparable to Suits’ flashback episodes; although it thankfully lacks the unpleasantness of any white character trying to encourage another white character to say the n-word. Unlike Suits flashback episodes, Lucifer isn’t as concerned with answering questions no one even asked or making unnecessary pre-”Pilot” run-ins between characters. (Yes, you have Lucifer and Chloe standing next to each other at Rico’s, but considering Chloe’s very existence is to be in Lucifer’s path, it’s integral to the show.) The episode is also smart in its refusal to do the very obvious flashback beat of having characters say how they’d never do certain things (that we clearly see them do in the current timeline), simply to wink and nudge to the audience. The closest this episode really gets to that—to beats where the audience is supposed to be amused by how things are so different—is when Amenadiel first points out, “Everyone knows I’m the strongest of God’s children.” Obviously, that is no longer the case, but at the time, it very much was. It was also very much a point of pride for Amenadiel, so the more times he brings it up, the sadder it gets. “City Of Angels?” is certainly an episode with fan service (Chloe inventing the concept of “Taco Tuesday;” Lux’s tacky origin story), but its also one that doesn’t bending over backwards to do said fan service. It merely fills in the blanks, the way it should.

Look at Chloe and Dan in this episode. Dan is in full Detective Douche mode, as he spends the entire episode telling Chloe he wants to see her succeed and make detective. But he’s also constantly undermining her and her gut. The audience might actually remember that terrible trait of Dan’s from the entirety of Lucifer season one, with the Palmetto storyline. Here, they clearly have a few more years before everything goes downhill for them as a couple, but the writing was on the wall, even when they were in a good place. This episode is really bolstered by Lucifer and Amenadiel’s plot (as well as Tom Ellis and D.B. Woodside’s performances), to the point where Chloe and Dan are… They’re not exactly superfluous, but they’re easily the least exciting part of the episode, once the novelty of Chloe in uniform wears off. And apparently that novelty is rather quickly, as the episode gives up on her being in uniform after two scenes. It is fascinating how the Chloe/Dan and Lucifer/Amenadiel plots come to the same conclusion, despite their very different approaches to crime-solving; it essentially confirms how, even without knowing it, Chloe and Lucifer make a good team.

Despite the differences in font choice, the episode itself begins the same way as the series’ pilot, with the over black intro of the concept of Lucifer’s “vacation” from Hell to Los Angeles. However, while the pilot gets us right into the night life that’s now synonymous with Lucifer, “City Of Angels?” starts in the daytime, with the California sun beaming over Lucifer as he struts down the streets of Venice. It’s the beginning of this episode’s major homages to various pop culture staples, which you wouldn’t exactly expect from an origin story but are all somehow integral to making this episode work. The episode starts off with Lucifer cribbing from Saturday Night Fever before it turns Amenadiel’s desire to get his stolen property back into an out of left field Karate Kid/Rocky hybrid. It also blends that with the—somewhat comforting, in its familiarity—underground fighting trope. Angel did it. Bones did it. Smallville did it. Even The O.C. did it, and Lucifer definitely takes a page out of its playbook by bringing the emotional torment-turned-physical aspect into it.

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The thing is, this technically isn’t underground fighting at all. In fact, besides the fixed fights, the MMA parts of this episode are technically on the up-and-up. The problem is, the way this episode is written and executed still really hits all the seedy underground fighting buttons. And while MMA is obviously the more modern choice, this plot also feels more like a boxing-based story—not just because of the chicken chasing—due the way it approaches the entire concept of MMA and the big fight.

When Amenadiel jokes about Lucifer being “evil” because he’s the Devil, it’s one of those Lucifer moments where Amenadiel just does not understand his brother; he thinks Lucifer’s problems are simple (since he deals with them with things like sex and partying), when they’re truly not. He treats Lucifer like a petulant little brother, and while he can be that, he doesn’t even begin to contemplate why calling Lucifer “evil” would strike a nerve. He tries to tell Lucifer not to take it so seriously, despite the fact that Amenadiel seemingly takes everything else so seriously. We know Amenadiel is bad at understanding human behavior and the world around him, but he’s also really bad at reading the room when it comes to Lucifer. This is why Lucifer and Amenadiel are currently in a rough spot in season three: Amenadiel kept pushing the “you’ve changed, Luci” button, and while he was right, he did that pushing while also insulting the things in Lucifer’s life that haven’t changed. He did that pushing while basically saying the New Lucifer is better than the Old Lucifer. So Lucifer lashed out at him, just like he does here in “City Of Angels?”

Outside of the actual fighting parts, Amenadiel is pretty much a pitch perfect hard-boiled detective in this episode, except for the moments when he starts going on about his necklace. His scene with Misty Canyons (Taylor Black) is perhaps the best police work in this episode, and it’s “ruined” by him putting the pieces together just to remind the audience that all roads lead to his necklace. The entire “my necklace” of it all feels childish in a way, especially when you keep in mind that neither Amenadiel nor Lucifer knows just how important the necklace actually is. But when Amenadiel snaps about why he’s so determined to get the necklace back—“Because my father gave it to me!”—you can tell that’s the moment when Lucifer officially decides he’s going to stay. Because, unfortunately for Lucifer, all that their father ever gave him (besides Chloe, who he has no idea about here) was an eternity as the torturer of humanity’s worst and the common perception that he is absolute evil.

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Lucifer is also doing this all—rebelling—because of a gift from God. A gift that basically results in Lucifer’s own brother making clear that Lucifer’s not “really” an angel anymore. And Lucifer’s act of rebellion of staying on Earth, staying in Los Angeles, apparently isn’t enough for him, which is what leads to the final moments of the episode, as he has Maze cut off his wings. Here, you have Maze, clearly distraught over literally removing a part of the man she’s 100% committed to protecting—removing a part of him that makes him special—while Lucifer just sucks it up and takes it. And he’s making sure to look directly up to the sky, so that God knows he’s doing this to spite him.

It’s definitely a heavy way to end a standalone (but certainly not “filler”) episode, and it creates something of a mental whiplash by occurring in the same episode as an amazingly amusing montage set to Joe Esposito’s “You’re The Best.” It’s also the ultimate display of “daddy issues,” and it’s a reminder that Lucifer’s acts of rebellion really aren’t always as cool or even as satisfying as he tries to pretend they are. It’s a really depressing start to the New Year (and to Lucifer coming to Earth), actually. Thanks a lot, Lucifer.


Stray observations

  • For when we return to our regularly scheduled season (January 22), I’ll suggest this post-”The Sin Bin” interview. Like a lot of the interviews—which I usually try to avoid—it’s kind of spoiler-ish, but it does go into detail more about “The Sin Bin”/Sinnerman chronicles and answers some questions.
  • “Changes” on piano is nice, but “Pony” as Amenadiel wears cut-off overalls is nice.
  • Alright, Lucifer’s “I can turn anything on.” to explain how he’s able to magically start “his” car. Yay or nay? I think it’s just the right kind of goofy for the show, but I can already hear people ask, “Then why doesn’t he do that all the time?” Because he’s not Trey Atwood? Calm down, hypothetical people.
  • Amenadiel: “Luci, I know what porn is!” Well that’s surprising, considering… literally everything else in this episode. Also, how dare Amenadiel shame porn stars and assume “hundreds” of them must be in Hell?
  • I honestly do not know: Is it okay that Chloe is not in her officer’s uniform for the majority of this episode? Isn’t the point of being a uniformed officer that you are, in fact, in uniform? While Lauren German definitely plays Chloe’s nerves and unfamiliarity throughout the episode, the wardrobe choice comes across more like “rookie detective,” which is emphatically not what she is here.
  • Once they introduce Chris Mulkey as the victim’s trainer and father figure, it’s not even a matter of a recognizable guest star being the perpetrator. It’s a matter of the character simply being an idiot. He leads Chloe to Tio (John Charles Meyer), effectively leading her right back to him.
  • The Lucifer/Amenadiel plot gives us the beauty of Amenadiel’s “Cahuenga” pronunciation, Lucifer’s porn star knowledge, the “training” montage, and a comic book appropriate Maze, while Chloe/Dan gives us… that Charlotte Richards wig.
  • The good news is: Amenadiel must have caught the chicken. The bad news is: I suppose it was delicious.
  • It’s a nice touch when Maze goes on about how Amenadiel is streets behind, when she doesn’t even know what a plunger is. And with that, I never want to think about that plunger again, Lucifer.
  • The Lucifer/Amenadiel plot ends with Lucifer forcing Amenadiel to leave him be and stick to their deal, which raises some questions about the way Amenadiel is depicted in the first season. However, in the five years between “City Of Angels?” and “Pilot,” Amenadiel presumably had plenty of time to brainstorm about how he’s going to do his father’s bidding—which we know is all that matters to him—without breaking his vow. And in the first season, while he tries to tell Lucifer to go back to Hell, he doesn’t force it as much as he can, and he actively goes behind Lucifer’s back to do what he can to get him to voluntarily go back. Now, Amenadiel going for loopholes is a whole other discussion.

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